Written January 7th:
I witnessed something tonight that I haven’t seen in a long, long time… pure, raw heartbreak. And not just that of one person, but 18 emotionally charged 16-year-old girls crying their eyes out at a loss that they cannot fathom.
Three days ago, we all learned of dramatic changes coming to SMAN5. While I don’t understand it all yet, what I do know for certain, is that my dear neighbors have been fired from their jobs as the dorm “parents” (and replaced by three unfriendly, uncaring, not-suited-to-be-dorm-mothers young women). It’s heartbreaking. For the students, for me, for the previous dorm parents… And right now, it’s hard to understand.
My students have been grappling with the news for a few days now. There has been a lot of whispering in my front room (the three new girls are living with me in my house until the previous families leave…), equal terror and anger, and tonight… pure, raw heartbreak.
I came out my front door this evening and saw a number of my girls at my neighbor’s house (the old dorm “mom”). They frantically called me over and when I saw 18 pairs of shoes outside the door I realized exactly what was going on. I stepped inside to see 19 tear streaked faces (Ibu Vera as well) and when they saw me, they all burst out crying again. I instantly reached for the girls closest to me and wrapped them in a huge hug. There were surprised… but then they collapsed into my arms. I held them for awhile while they sobbed, then moved on to the next pair… I eased over to the couch and one of the girls who I had had dinner with not an hour before, who had been so strong and positive, reached for me, pulled me into a huge hug and started sobbing into my shoulder. I looked at Ibu Vera with tears in my own eyes and saw exactly how much these girls meant to her. And she to them. And she was being unfairly wrenched from them and they from her. These girls are 16. Some of them live hundreds of miles from their parents. They are emotionally charged teenagers… and they need a mom. They need someone to talk to when their friends are mean to them. Then need someone to be their advocate to the administration. They need someone to care for them when they are sick… And now, they have none of that.
Girls sobbing and comforting each other during Ibu Vera and Ibu Riana’s last Night “Ceremony” (evening rollcall)
I, too, am heartbroken to be losing my neighbors. Ibu Riana, Ibu Vera, and Pak Jon – while not people I’ve conversed much with, as they only speak Bahasa – are still some of my favorite people here in Palangkaraya. They’re the people I live with. The faces I see when I sweep my front porch in the morning. The people I wave at as I head off to school. Ibu Vera and Ibu Riana are the mothers of my favorite little children. Ryan, Hardy, and Monique are 10, 6, and 2 and they are my shadows and my playmates. They come bursting into my house at all hours of the day, shouting, “Miss Kenzie! Miss Kenzie! Can we play Uno?” “What you doing Miss Kenzie?” “Can we play Miss Kenzie?” I love these kids. They are my constant companions and my everpresent friends. And I’m really not exaggerating in the slightest… I had told myself that after Christmas I needed to set some boundaries with them – they can’t just come bursting into my house all day. But today, on our first day back… they’re leaving. I won’t have them running past my house everyday. I won’t have them around to play Uno with every afternoon. I won’t have them around to teach me more Bahasa Indonesia and me to teach them English.
My neighbors are the people I counted on to stay here long past when I would be here… but instead, I’m the one standing on my front porch waving goodbye to them…